The Sacrifice of Isaac

Andrea del Sarto (Italian, 1486-1530)c. 1527

The Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland, United States

In this dramatic test of faith from the Old Testament book of Genesis, Abraham agrees to slay his son Isaac on God’s command. As Abraham raises the knife, an angel suddenly appears to halt the sacrifice. This work gains its power from the complex expressions of father and son, combining grief, strength, resignation, fear, and realization in their faces and bodies, the latter inspired by ancient sculpture and Michelangelo. Andrea del Sarto never finished this painting, and it lays bare his working methods. He transferred the design to the panel from a drawing, reinforcing the chalk with painted lines—best seen in the donkey at the far right. He then worked over the whole panel at once with thin, brushy veils of color, letting him alter the composition while painting—especially evident in the angel, Isaac’s body, and Abraham’s head.

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  • Title: The Sacrifice of Isaac
  • Creator: Andrea del Sarto (Italian, 1486-1530)
  • Date Created: c. 1527
  • Physical Dimensions: Framed: 208 x 171 x 12.5 cm (81 7/8 x 67 5/16 x 4 15/16 in.); Unframed: 178 x 138 cm (70 1/16 x 54 5/16 in.)
  • Provenance: Cardinal Carlo de' Medici, Florence, 1649, Montalvi Collection, Florence, Peruzzi Collection, Florence, Zondadari Collection, Florence (see Biadi, 1829), William Cave, died 1858 (Brentry House, near Bristol, bought in Florence in 1846), unsold, Christie's, London, June 29, 1854, lot 77, by inheritance to his wife., Mrs. Cave, sold, Christie's, London, June 22, 1858, lot 102, bought by Peters), Peters, George Cornwall Legh, High Legh, Co. Chester (according to Royal Academy exhibition catalogue, Winter 1882, no. 206, "purchased by George Cornwall Legh in 1862 at Florence; in the Tordanari collection"); Lieutenant Colonel Henry Cornwall Legh, High Legh, Co. Chester, sold Sotheby's, London, May 21, 1935, to Spencer Samuels, Spencer Samuels, T. Harris, London, and Durlacher Brothers, New York, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art, 1937.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: CC0
  • External Link: https://clevelandart.org/art/1937.577
  • Medium: oil on wood
  • Fun Fact: Del Sarto never finished this painting depicting the Old Testament story of the sacrifice of Isaac. Look closely at the angel in the upper right corner and notice the outline of another set of legs that illustrate the artist struggling with his composition.
  • Department: European Painting and Sculpture
  • Culture: Italy, Florence, 16th century
  • Credit Line: Delia E. Holden and L. E. Holden Funds
  • Collection: P - Italian 16th & 17th Century
  • Accession Number: 1937.577

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